loses perch as top tourist spot
Paris : The pursed lips, the callous shrug of
the shoulders and the infamous indifference
to the struggling foreigner has been the stuff
of tourists’ moans for decades. But now
the notorious grumpiness of the French would
seem to have got its comeuppance.
For the first time since tourism was invented, France has slipped from its perch as the world’s top destination. And the authorities are taking it so seriously that new guidelines are to be given to those working with foreigners to urge them to be better hosts.
After a dismal summer, tourism chiefs in France say only the Rugby World Cup starting on Friday and expected to attract 3,00,000 foreign fans looks able to keep the cockerel crowing. But for that, the French are going to have to put up with a deluge of misuse of the language of Moliere.France was last week jolted by the realisation that, while still blessed with 79 million annual visitors, the country has slipped to third place behind the U.S. and Spain for income from tourism. In an uncharacteristically sharp interview, the Secretary of State for Tourism Luc Chatel said this weekend: “We have to make a collective effort. We were very successful in the 1970s, but tourists are different now; they book by themselves on the Internet and prefer short trips. Our greatest handicap is our perceived lack of friendliness.”
After years of grunts directed at foreign visitors, the French have come up with at least two initiatives that could improve their reputation. The first is a rugby glossary, Oui Je Parle Rugby, published last month by the Foreign Ministry. The second, more audacious, is Meeting the French, an agency which arranges for tourists to be invited to dinner in French homes.